Saturday, September 29, 2007
RegHardware reports: [edited]
Halo 3 achieved record US sales of $170m within its first 24 hours on sale, Microsoft claimed today, boasting the figure makes its game the "biggest entertainment launch in history", eclipsing records set by the Spider-man 3 and Harry Potter movies.
The company also claimed that 1.7m Halo 3 copies were pre-ordered in the US, which also makes it the fastest selling computer game in history, it alleged. Halo 3 snatched this title from its predecessor, Halo 2.
Winning both titles will be good news for Microsoft's front-man, Bill Gates, who took a brief break from counting his money to shake hands with Halo 3 fans as they received their copies of the game at a launch event in Seattle.
Friday, September 28, 2007
AutoBlog reports: [edited]
Designed by Ofir Tal, a recent graduate of Israel's Hadasa College, the iSlide is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, with lights at the front for travel at night.
With a top-speed of 15 kilometers per hour, don't expect to get anywhere too quickly, but that doesn't really seem to be the point of this exercise anyway. The machine is made up of "Epoxy and fiberglass, polyurethane, magnesium and titanium and rubber inserts."
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Lifesaver Systems reports: [edited]
It is the world’s first all in one ultra filtration water bottle. It will remove bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and all other microbiological waterborne pathogens without using chemicals like iodine or chlorine which leave a distinctive foul taste.
It produces filtered sterile drinking water quickly and easily. It incorporates technology which shuts off the bottle’s cartridge upon expiry, preventing contaminated water from being drunk.
There is no need for tablets, boiling or chemicals.
Cost: £190 per bottle.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Daring Fireball reports: [edited]
The new Amazon MP3 Store looks like no previous iTunes Store rival. The music is completely DRM-free, encoded at a very respectable 256 kbps, includes a ton of songs from major record labels, and offers terrific software support for Mac OS X.
When you purchase singles, you can download them directly via your web browser. When purchasing entire albums, however, Amazon requires the use of a helper application called Amazon MP3 Downloader.
When you purchase albums from Amazon, your browser downloads a .amz file, which opens in Amazon MP3 Downloader. Amazon MP3 Downloader then begins downloading the tracks from the album.
By default, tracks are stored in a new “Amazon MP3” sub-folder inside the Music folder in your home folder. Amazon MP3 Downloader also opens the files in iTunes, importing them into your iTunes library.
There’s a very high “it just works” factor here. Music is easy to find, easy to buy, and easy to download once you have the Amazon MP3 Downloader installed. When you download music with Amazon MP3 Downloader, it simply shows up in iTunes, as you’d expect, with no manual importing or additional action required on the user’s part. Sync your iPods, and the new music shows up there, too.
The songs sound great and come with high-resolution album art. Singles cost $.89 or $.99, and album prices start as low as $4.99 — i.e. they’ve introduced variable pricing to sell music for less, not more, than the iTunes Store. When you search for songs from an artist whose entire catalog is not available through their MP3 store, Amazon provides a direct link to the artist’s catalog in their CD store.
Two million total songs is far less than the six million Apple offers at the iTunes Store, but it’s a pretty good start, and all of Amazon MP3’s songs are DRM-free. I’m not sure how many DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks Apple offers, but it certainly seems like far fewer than one-in-three, and thus far fewer than two million. So while Amazon can’t claim to offer the most songs, they might be able to claim the most DRM-free songs.
The Amazon MP3 Store is clearly the biggest and best rival to the iTunes Store. It’s not a coincidence that they’ve eschewed DRM completely.
The store is U.S. only. I got around it by putting all my credit card details in as usual, but with a U.S. state and postcode. The files have downloaded fine, and I've got the confirmation billing emails. Will be interested to see if there are any ramifications.
Less than a month after Sony closed its music download site, the Virgin (or Vigin?) Digital site will cease selling music tracks from the 28 September.
There is no indication how long those who signed up for a subscription service will be able to play the tracks they've downloaded.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
New York Times reports: [edited]
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its web site.
In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The New York Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986.
What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
Monday, September 24, 2007
The first episode of Battlestar Galactica was aired nearly 30 years ago in 1978. Created by Glen Larson (Alias Smith and Jones, The Six Million Dollar Man, Knight Rider), it was a plagiaristic combination of Star Trek and Star Wars, lacking the inventiveness of the former, and the special effects of the latter.
The new Battlestar Galactica, 're-invented' by Ronald Moore (Star Trek) is a lot better. And Battlestar Galactica Season Three is excellent. The Daily Telegraph has dubbed it 'West Wing in space', and while I don't believe the acting or the dialogue warrants this, the 'big themes' it explores (religion, terrorism, genocide, diaspora, democracy, genocide, robotics) are handled with balance, creativity and wit.
The DVD box set has just been released, put it on your Amazon wishlist.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Must Be Love - Fya Feat. Smujji
Valentine (Single Version) - The Delays
Cindy Incidentally - The Faces
Hold the line - Toto
Hooked on a Feeling (Ooga Chucka) - Rusted Root
Twistin (Blues Brothers) - Ray Charles
Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake - Grandaddy
What A Wonderful World - Joey Ramone
I Ain't Gonna Stand For It - Stevie Wonder
Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Dwight Yoakam
My Way (clean remix) - Butch Walker
Under the Sea - The Little Mermaid
Shiny Shiny - Haysi Fantayzee
I Wish I Could Fly (Orville's Song) - Keith Harris & Orville
Who's That Lady - The Isley Brothers
Psycho - The Sonics
Cool For Cats - Squeeze
Sulk - Billy Bragg
Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat - Aristocats
You've Got Your Troubles - The Fortunes
Snoopy vs The Red Baron - Royal Guardsmen
Daddy Cool - The Darts
Tango - Lady Sovereign
He Said He Loved Me - Reverend and the Makers
You Little Thief - Feargal Sharkey
Fat Lip - Sum 41
(I Hate) Everything about you - Ugly Kid Joe
Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) - Hombres
I Want You Back - Jackson Five
Cotton-Eyed Joe (feat. Ricky Skaggs) - The Chieftains
Touchy! - a-Ha
Girl Crazy - Hot Chocolate
Into the Groove - Madonna
I Wish I'd Looked After My Teeth - Pam Ayres
The Salmon Dance - The Chemical Brothers
Airport - The Motors
Last Train to Trancentral - KLF
The Logical Song - Scooter
Sophomore Slump Or Comeback Of The Year - Fall Out Boy
Delilah - Tom Jones
Burn Baby Burn - Ash
Spanish Stroll - Mink DeVille
Absolutely Everybody - Vanessa Amorosi
Wrapped Up In Books - Belle & Sebastian
So In Love - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
A Cruel Angel's Thesis (Neon Genesis Evangelion) - Kentaro Fukushi
You Keep It All In - The Beautiful South
Foundations - Kate Nash
Picture This - Blondie
Girls Who Play Guitars - Maximo Park
Carnival - The Cardigans
Emo Patrol - Skamasutra
Happy - Victoria Williams
Autumn Song - Manic Street Preachers
Fluorescent Adolescent - Arctic Monkeys
How Would It Be - Lene Marlin
Laughter In The Rain - Neil Sedaka
Everytime We Touch - Cascada
La Dolce Vita - Ryan Paris
Bomb the twist - 5,6,7,8s
Together In Electric Dreams (Ext) - Georgio Moroder & Paul Oakey
1234 - Feist
Down Boy - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Hold On - KT Tunstall
Nine/Begin The Beguine - Noel Coward
Screamager - Therapy?
Pony Ride - The Crash
Wouldn't It Be Good? - Cascada
Brand new key - Melanie
Love is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar
Running Out of Time - Hot Hot Heat
Dress You Up - Madonna
This Is It - Melba Moore
Vehicle - The Ides of March
Take Her Back - The Pigeon Detectives
Great to be a Nerd - The Arrogant Worms
Off The Wall - Michael Jackson
This Love - Maroon 5
Why Can't the English? - Rex Harrison And Audrey Hepburn
I'm Doin' Fine Now - New York City
Amylase - Cajun Dance Party
La la Song - The Kissaway Trail
Little Does She Know - The Kursaal Flyers
She's hitting him with her Bible! - Mike Childs
Prescilla - Bat for Lashes
People Everyday - Arrested Development
Jack & Jill - Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Sale of the Century - Sleeper
Friday, September 21, 2007
Yahoo! reports: [edited]
LucasArts has announced that its next-generation action adventure, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, will be arriving on the Nintendo Wii platform, in addition to its already revealed PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
Ever since the Wii's unusual motion-sensing controllers were unveiled, gamers and Star Wars fans around the globe have been anticipating using the Wii-mote to control a lightsaber. Their wish will be fulfilled next year when the game is scheduled to release.
LucasArts also mentioned the Nunchuk controller will allow players to enact their character's Force powers.
The Wii version of the game will feature an exclusive Duel Mode that pits players in head-to-head battles for the title of ultimate Jedi master.
Set in the span of time between Episode III and IV, the player will take on the role of Darth Vader's apprentice.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Die Gestalten Verlag (dgv) "specializes in developing content for aficionados of cutting-edge visual culture worldwide...".
Part of their service is type design, and they have made 3 complete typefaces available for free download.
Naiv-Fat is a deceptively legible 'under-exposed' rounded sans-serif.
Neon Glow is an intriguing neon-sans-outline-egyptian hybrid.
Regular Cargo-Bold is a condensed and readable sans-serif stencil.
There are also a couple of very attractive postmodern sans-serifs, Engel Light and Nuri Light. However, these are 'limited' sets, with no punctuation. Fine if you need a headline, not so good if you are intending to use them for body copy.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
BoingBoing reports: [edited]
Italian workers with IBM are protesting a $1,377 paycut, and they're organising a September 25th protest in Second Life, where IBM has a large corporate campus and marketing site. (The company's UK division has been using SL as a '3D web' development platform for over a year.)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
GamersWeb reports: [edited]
Vocaloid is software developed by Yamaha that enables users to synthesize authentic-sounding [Japanese] singing by typing in the melody and the lyrics of a song.
Vocaloid 2 has just been released, featuring the voice of Atsune Miku, a 16-year-old virtual singer (according to her official bio she is 158 cm tall, weighs 42 Kg and loves pop and dance music).
During the last two weeks Atsune Miku has stormed the Japanese otaku [obsessive anime/manga geeks] and video-gamers underground, with users posting videos with music created on Vocaloid 2 on Nico Nico (japanese equivalent of YouTube). It is currently the top-selling piece of software on Amazon Japan.
The site has links to MP3s and YouTube videos featuring songs created with Vocaloid 2.
Monday, September 17, 2007
National Geographic reports: [edited]
A new ultralight aircraft has reportedly demolished the previous world record for longest unmanned flight.
The Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) stayed aloft for 54 hours during a recent test flight at New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range, says London-based defense firm QinetiQ.
No observers from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) were on hand, so the flight may not officially break the previous record of 30 hours, 24 minutes, 1 second set by Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A "Global Hawk" on March 21, 2001.
The Zephyr is an ultralight aircraft made of carbon fibre. Though it has a 60-foot (18-meter) wingspan, it weighs just 66 pounds (30 kilograms) and is launched by hand.
During the day, the plane draws on power supplied by paper-thin solar arrays mounted on its wings, while simultaneously charging batteries used for night operations.
With further improvements, it's hoped that not everything that goes up has to come down. The solar-powered aircraft could stay in the sky indefinitely, acting as a permanent surveillance source or temporary communications relay during an emergency.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
arstechnica reports: [edited]
If you crack the back off a modern portable electronic device, you'll find a battery that contributes to a large part of the device's weight.
Fuel cells and solar power have both been floated as promising solutions to the battery weight/capacity problem, but new research suggests that carbon nanotubes may eventually provide the best hope of implementing the flexible batteries and supercapacitors needed to shrink our gadgets even more.
Part of the problem with designing flexible batteries and supercapacitors has been the necessity of layering such devices. Typically, two electrode layers sandwich two charge-holding layers, with an insulating layer in the middle of it all. As the layers build up, flexibility goes out the window.
However, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MIT have developed a new material that eliminates the need for a multilayer battery. They grew carbon nanotubes on a silicon substrate and impregnated the gaps between the tubes with cellulose—that's right, plain old paper. The cellulose also covered the ends of the nanotubes, but once it had dried, the paper material could be peeled off of the silicon substrate, leaving one end of the carbon nanotubes exposed to form an electrode.
By putting two sheets of paper together with the cellulose side facing inwards (and a drop of electrolyte on the paper), a supercapacitor is formed. These supercapacitors retain the flexibility of normal paper, but they have a rating that is comparable to that of standard commercial hardware — a 100g sheet could replace a 1300mAh battery. Because the medium is flexible, the researchers say you could shape batteries of all sizes for very specific use.
It doesn't stop there, however. By putting a drop of electrolyte on a single sheet and then putting a metal foil consisting of lithium and aluminum on each side, a lithium ion battery is formed. This paper device had a respectable 110mAh/g capacity, and the researchers indicate that small prototypes could already power small mechanical devices like fans.
Thanks to Conrad for the link.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
GeekAlerts reports: [edited]
“PuzzlePerser” is a Persian inspired line of rugs created by the German product designer Katrin Sonnleitner. Featured here is the classic version, using nine different colors to create the beautiful and playful pattern.
There is also a black and white PuzzlePersianBW, and the PuzzleGreen in four different shades of green. The puzzle pieces used for the rugs are made of a recyclable mix of both natural and synthetic rubber.
View the PuzzlePerser and other creations by Katrin on her website. [familiarity with the German language an advantage, Ed]
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The Telegraph reports: [edited]
For most people, a cut-price weekend away in a Travelodge hotel or an overnight stay to break up a long journey is enough. But one couple found they enjoyed not having to cook, clean or do the washing up so much that they have lived in one of the roadside hotels for 22 years.
They experienced their first night in one of the roadside hotels in 1985, when they drove to visit an elderly aunt in Staffordshire. They enjoyed it so much that four months later, when that relative died, they decided to ring the changes. They turned their back on their flat in Sheffield in favour of a Travelodge on the A1 in Newark, Notts.
Ten years ago they transferred their allegiance 15 miles south to take up residence in a new Travelodge, which opened in Grantham, Lincs. Mr and Mrs Davidson have spent £97,600 on their hotel costs in 22 years, which could have bought them a two-bedroom terrace home or flat in the Lincolnshire area.
Sitting in the hotel's room one yesterday, Mr Davidson, 79, a retired banker who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, said: "This is our home. We have everything we need here - and the staff are like family now.
"We get great rates because we book well in advance and all our bed linen is laundered too. It doesn't get much better than that does it? We only have to walk across the car park for meals as there is a Little Chef here too."
They pay around £8,000 a year at Grantham, depending on room rates. Help the Aged say the cost of a residential care home for one person is between £21,000 and £25,000 a year. They still own the flat in Sheffield, which they bought for £25,000 in 1980. It has quadrupled in value.
Mrs Davidson, 70, said: "I really like living here as it's so convenient and our room is on the ground floor so there are no stairs or lifts to deal with. I don't have this kind of room in our flat in Sheffield. It's spacious and makes things easier for us. We don't get hit with huge heating bills over the winter and it's safer than a lot of places these days. For us it's a better and cheaper option than an old people's home and we're well looked after."
The couple visit their first floor flat fortnightly to check for mail and describe their Travelodge room, adorned with family photographs, as "home from home".
"Our room looks out to the car park and a busy slip road where lorries pass by throughout the night."
Monday, September 10, 2007
Wired reports: [edited]
Has the kilogram gone on a diet? Maybe. For some reason, the official kilo — a 118-year-old lump of metal stored in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures outside Paris — has slimmed down by as much as 50 micrograms in the past century.
The solution? Build a better kilogram. Researchers at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are cutting, grinding, and polishing a boule — a big crystal — of ultrapure silicon 28 into two baseball-sized spheres (one is for double-checking).
Materials scientists are able to measure precisely how many atoms of that silicon isotope are in any given hunk (the completed orb should contain 215 x 1023 atoms).
Creating "the roundest object in the world," says CSIRO engineer Katie Green, means technicians have to worry about only one dimension: diameter. Once finished, it will weigh a perfect kilogram. Give or take an atom.
Friday, September 07, 2007
In the previous blog, I published RegHardware's article on why they believe the iPod touch is going to be a successful product.
I featured it because it challenged my initial reaction to the latest iPod range, which was '?'.
The iPod classic had the storage I wanted. But nothing else.
The iPod nano is not for me. Not enough storage. Not enough features. And I'm reserving judgment on the form-factor. My intial reaction is 'Fisher-Price'.
The iPod touch looks great. The storage is not huge, but flash media keeps it slim and improves battery life. And I'm used to using smart-playlists to manage capacity limitations with my existing iPod, so that's not a big problem.
The lack of Bluetooth annoyed me at first, as I would have liked to be able to listen to songs without wires. However, the current range of Bluetooth headphones are either poor in audio quality, or so bulky/power-hungry that I wouldn't use them anyway. I wonder if WiFi earphones are a possibility?
And then I start to think, is this Steve Job's Newton?
It runs OSX. It isn't shackled to a telecom carrier. It's reasonably priced. It has a great screen. A usable touch-interface. A fast processor. Good battery life. WiFi.
How long will it be before third-party developers find ways of synchronising data and broadcasting sound via WiFi?
All it lacks is an app (and a microphone) to allow it to be used as a Skype device. WiFi availability is growing fast. How long will it be until the iPod voice makes an appearance?
I believe that convergence is inevitable. One day we will carry/wear/implant tiny devices that take superb quality pictures, store (or stream) our entire music/video collections and allow us to communicate with the rest of the world via voice and data.
However, as the RegHardware article suggests, this is the device for those of us who don't believe convergence has arrived yet.
I still prefer my Fuji F30 as a camera to any phone (including the Nokia N95). My Nokia E65 is an excellent mobile that gives me access to the internet via WiFi, GPRS and 3G, but I don't enjoy browsing the web on it, I don't like the quality of the images or videos it captures and the screen is too small to enjoy watching videos on it.
The iPod touch could end up being the first successful UMPC (Ultra Portable Personal Computer), providing the average user with enough horsepower and features to keep them happy until Apple, Fuji and a Telco team up to provide the ultimate convergence PDA.
RegHardware reports: [edited]
So was nine months of relentless iPhone hype and froth just a distraction? Not quite, but you could be forgiven for thinking so. I believe Apple's most important product of 2007 was actually announced this week.
The iPod touch is going to be a sensation. Not only does it bring Apple's capacitive multi-touch interface, to its key music products, it does so at a very low entry point: $299 (or £199)
But the interface is simply a means to an end. Because the Touch has Wi-Fi, so you get the most attractive web browsing device at a very low cost as well.
And as a bonus Apple stealthily enters a new market altogether: the connected PDA.
This 'Second Box' business is one that almost everyone has neglected, because they've followed the conventional wisdom that Everything Must Be Converged. But what if that isn't true?
Unlike the iPhone, which is locked down at the carrier's request, third-party applications will not be restricted on the iPod touch. All it's lacking is Bluetooth and removable storage.
In short, the iPod touch brings much of the value proposition of the iPhone to people who are perfectly happy with the phone they've got - or who are locked into a long contract with a network operator.
New Scientist reports: [edited]
Radio astronomers have found the biggest hole ever seen in the universe. The void, which is nearly a billion light years across, is empty of both normal matter and dark matter. The finding challenges theories of large-scale structure formation in the universe.
Lawrence Rudnick and colleagues of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, US, stumbled upon the void by accident. Rudnick’s team had been studying data from a survey carried out by the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico, also in the US. "One morning I was a little bored, and said, 'why don’t I look in the direction of the WMAP cold spot’," says Rudnick.
The team was in for a surprise. They saw little or no radio sources in a volume that is about 280 megaparsecs or nearly a billion light years in diameter. The lack of radio sources means that there are no galaxies or clusters in that volume, and the fact that the CMB is cold there suggests the region lacks dark matter, too.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Just in case you missed the announcement yesterday. A strange looking replacement for the iPod nano, now squarer in shape, with a bigger, video-playing screen. The re-badged iPod classic, like the iPod but now available with up to 160GB of storage. And the iPhone touch, which is a stripped-down iPhone (no phone, no camera, no bluetooth).
Looking forward to seeing them in real-life, meanwhile you can visit the Apple site for tech specs and intro videos.
Voyager 1 was launched on the 5th September, 1977.
Still operational after 30 years, Voyager 1 is now more than 103.2 astronomical units away from the Sun.
Astronomers believe it has now entered the solar system's heliosheath - the termination shock region between the sun's solar wind and interstellar space.
Signals from Voyager 1 take 13 hours to reach Earth, travelling at the speed of light.
Wired has an excellent slide show of Voyager-related images. Worth a browse.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Playlist reports: [edited]
Sony’s three-year effort to beat Apple’s iTunes Music Store is over. The company will be closing down its online Connect Music Store.
In its place, Sony is adding Microsoft’s Windows Media technology to its music players and allowing consumers to download copy-protected content from numerous Windows Media-compatible music stores on the Internet, including those from Napster, Audible.com and Wal-Mart.
Sony will also distribute Windows Media Player 11 software with its devices.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
My first freelance job involved making a lot of tea and coffee for the other designers. I used Pantone colours to make sure I got the strength of people's brew's just right.
Looks like Suck have had a similar idea.
Thanks to Sora for the link.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Calvin College reports: [edited]
Brom, now a graduate student at the University of Kentucky continuing his studies in computer science, worked with Adams to build Microwulf, a machine that is among the smallest and least expensive supercomputers on the planet.
“It’s small enough to check on an airplane or fit next to a desk,” said Brom.
This may prove useful next summer when Brom and others from his graduate program travel to England to do work that will require “a significant amount of computing power.”
And as the price of commercial supercomputers is often prohibitive for many educational institutions, bringing a “personal” supercomputer like Microwulf could be a cost-effective solution for the group of graduate researchers.
“So far as we can tell, this is the first supercomputer to have this low price/performance ratio - the first to cost less than $100/Gflop,” said Adams [the original project cost $2470. With current hardware prices, another system would cost half of that amount].
Microwulf is more than twice as fast as Deep Blue, the IBM-created supercomputer that beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, and cost only a fraction of the $5 million spent to build Deep Blue.